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Photographing an Abandoned School in Souk El Gharb

Lebanon is undoubtedly one of the most unique countries in the Middle East. It is filled with rich history and culture and some of the most beautiful architecture on this side of the world, showcasing influences that provide the perfect combination of western proportions and Arab elegance. However, many local buildings sadly did not survive the country’s turbulent history. Lebanon experienced the Civil War and various other situations of political unrest and economic crisis. Many landmarks were lost or severely damaged, while others were caught in the crossfire of political tensions between minorities.

Such is the case of a school that was built in the 1960s. Originally, it was meant as a school for Palestinians who lived in the area. However, things took a sharp turn when Israel invaded. The building was hit, and the Lebanese faction took over. Because of its location, the school was used during the war, when it was severely damaged due to the fighting spurts in the conflict. In those years, almost everything of value or of note was actually stolen from the building. One of the highlights of the building’s history was a visit from the president of Palestine himself in 1972. This is one of the best-remembered moments of the school and one of the most recognizable events in the school’s history.

The school is located in the village of Souk El Gharb. The area had been settled in ancient times, and we now know that even the Romans where is the area, as shown by various ruins and vestiges found in the town. However, the Ottoman Empire was actually instrumental in shaping local culture for a long time.

The name of this town roughly translates to “Western Market.” Located in a very scenic spot in the heart of the Chouf Mountains (southern Lebanon), and surrounded by lush pine forests, the town was a very popular mountain resort, attracting visitors from all over Lebanon and the world. Souk El Gharb is not very far from the district’s regional capital, Aley, meaning that it was fairly easy to reach, and it is essentially considered one of the suburbs of the city. Before the war and the chaos that ensued, it was essentially a perfect retreat, away from the stress and hustle of urban living and deep into the beautiful heart of local nature. The town is perched beautifully in the scenic mountain range. The Arabic community was very strong in the area, but currently, Souk El Gharb is predominantly populated by Greek orthodox Christians and Greek Catholics.

In addition to buildings like the school, it is still possible to see some of the remains of many stunning villas, which were holiday getaways belonging to wealthy Arabic owners mostly coming from countries in the Persian Gulf. This was not the only school building in Souk El Gharb. The area was very well-known around the Middle East because it was home to several educational institutions, including Balamand University, which is still based in the town. Because of its connection with the Arab community, Souk El Gharb, in particular, was hit pretty badly during the war, and it was the site of many of the most violent battles in the whole conflict. A particularly destructive artillery attack from the Syrian army devastated many areas of the town. One of the most famous battles in the Lebanese Civil War is perhaps the battle of Souk El Gharb, which took place in September 1983 and even involved the intervention of American forces. The Lebanese army regained ground at great cost for both factions and the town itself. At that point, Souk El Gharb was almost completely in ruins.

More photos of the abandoned school in Souk El Gharb, Lebanon, can be found below:

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